Off to Cuba in 1999. Flew one day late due to engine problems. Should of seen it as a sign. Arrived in Havana and mooched around. For me it was a delight. For the locals a nightmare stuck in time. Remember one shop, a chemists, with only vinegar for sale.
Onwards and another flight. Driven out to an airport that an Estate Agent/Realtor would call ‘’well lived in.’’ There was a plane, shiny and modern. A list of names tramped out and boarded the gleam machine. I waited. Next airplane. Older but relatively new and smaller. Another list, but not for me. Then I spied a relic being towed to museum or knackers yard. No, wait a minute, it’s stopping. It stopped outside the departure lounge. Departure seemed to take on a new meaning. Everyone left was beckoned onto the relic. An ancient Antonov, probably from the 1950s love festival between Castro and the U.S.S.R.
As we approached the Wright brothers reject an engineer was tapping the nose cone with a mallet. Nervous laughter. On we climbed. The seats gently in their brackets and Russian accompanied Spanish instructions. Gunning the engine outrageously, the pilot got us airborne.
As we straightened out the cabin began to fill with smoke. The steward ran up the aisle to assure us it was harmless and from the old air conditioning system. More nervous laughter, and a large rum, please. As I sat in the window seat I decided to watch and pray. Then to my dismay a flame shot back out of the engine. A couple of people said, ooh and one person screamed. The steward tried allay our fears by stating that on these engines, ‘’it was normal.’’ He needed to try harder. Well we landed and it was time for a large rum..Return flight to Havana was at night, in a thunderstorm on the same aircraft. It was a very, very quiet flight.